Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Communication’

Driving Off the Lot with my New Shiny CRM

August 7, 2010 6 comments

If you examine your needs rather than wants, you will quickly discover what is right for you. Take a moment to think about what you use CRM for. How many people does the system need to support? What business processes do you do most often? How many hours a day will you be in the system? Is it important that your next system is lower cost at the possible expense of features you may or may not use?

In too many cases people choose their CRM System for the cool UI, great press or because it is a trendy favorite. If you do, you might either exceed your budget or have to go shopping again soon. Let your needs, not your wants, drive your decision. I have written very similar words before, sorry if this is a repeat. I have stated clearly as have many of my peers, and mentors before me to make sure you have a good understanding of what your customers need to do, beyond what ‘they want’

OK, now read the following:

“If you examine your needs rather than wants, you will quickly discover what the right car is for you. Take a moment to think about what you use your car for. How many people do you need to transport? What type of driving do you do most often? How long is your commute? Is it important that your next vehicle get good gas mileage?

In too many cases people choose a car for its styling or because it is a trendy favorite. If you do, you might either exceed your budget or have to go car shopping again soon. Let your needs, not your wants, drive your decision. Here are a few other questions to keep in mind when you begin your car-buying process.”


The quote above is from Edmunds.com: “The 10 steps to Finding the Right Car for You“.

The number of similarities is almost funny. Even the text within each category is amazingly similar.

  • Step 3: Should you Lease or Buy (CRM Equivalent: On-Premise versus SaaS)
  • Step 5: Have you considered all the costs of Ownership
  • Step 6: Research options (Internet and Educated Consumers)
  • Step 7-10: Test Drive and the Buying Cycle

What Model Do You Want?

I could spend a whole lot of time continuing down this path (metaphor, analogy what ever you want to call it), but that is not really my goal. My goal is to simply point out that I believe the needs of drivers are different now and so are the needs of businesses, with respect to CRM. Does that mean we need to call it something new: Social CRM versus CRM? Or does it simply mean that CRM was a comfortable 4 door sedan, which still works for many folks and Social CRM is the fun cool Crossover, Hybrid, Sporty Convertible? It sure is a lot more fun to talk about the cool cars! However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that no matter which care we drive it needs to get you from point A to point B. I has to have 4 wheels, an engine and a steering wheel. It requires maintenance, fuel and cannot drive itself.

I do believe that Social components of CRM are very important, and will be increasingly important. I believe that Social components of all aspects of business are important as well. How many new names and definitions do we need to create? Living in Vermont in the summer it is very easy to forget that if I get sucked into that fancy sports car, rear wheel drive and speed rated tires, I will most certainly not be able to even make up my driveway come January. I guess I would not make a very good Car Salesman!

To be clear, I will continue to write about and get behind Social CRM initiatives. I believe Social CRM is an extension of CRM. Core CRM, the basic blocking and tackling is still required, and more critical than ever. I spend a lot of time thinking and working through exactly how these extensions are added, implemented and used.

Advertisements

The Absence of Noise

In my previous post, I focused on Listening versus Hearing, a distinction I feel is very important, others seem to as well. Friend and colleague Scott Rogers expanded the thought to Listening versus Understanding. In his post, Scott relayed  the following; the dollar value the average person thought a minute of their time was worth comes to well over 3 times the national average income.  In other words, we must cherish the feedback customers give us, because it shows how much value it had to them to provide that feedback.

Customer feedback comes from those whose desire to give feedback exceeds the personal constraints for giving feedback – time, place, personality traits, etc

What about all the people who do not want to talk?

I am working hard to back into shape, so I have been getting up a little earlier and going out for a morning run. This morning was one of those classic Vermont mornings. A little crisp, but not too bad, very little wind and sun would duck behind some high puffy clouds every so often. It was really quiet, as well. During the run, I was actually thinking about what post I should write today. What I noticed was it was a little too quiet. I can usually see and hear the morning airplane traffic leaving from Burlington, headed to either NYC or Detroit. The reason is simple, and nothing to worry about. When the wind is out of the North, that is the direction the planes take off and not towards my neighborhood, thus it is quieter. But, the key point is that the planes were still flying, I just had to look a little harder to see or hear them.

We have all witnessed the never ending supply of blogs, articles, white papers (yeah, I am guilty) telling us to listen, engage and converse. What about those people who either have nothing to say, or do not want to spend the time, as it is not valuable to them. Or, all those people who are a little social, but are really hard to “engage”. In doing a little bit of research, the folks at ExactTarget always seem to put out fun and entertaining infographics, like this one:

Here is the thing with this particular graphic, and I might be reading WAY to much information into what is presented. I am not going to jump on the obvious, rather try to look at this from another perspective. One part that I believe people need to realize is that it is difficult to call email ‘engaging’. My comments with regard to engaging are to take my thoughts on listening over time, that is engagement. Email is not even hearing, it is talking, even a call to action is questionable, but I am sure I will get beat-up for that one.

Absence of Noise

If we were to think of this graphic as a classroom in grade school, would that help the conversation? The Subscribers are the ones paying attention, but not saying much. The fans are the kids paying attention most of the time, but they are doing some talking, you could say that they are more engaged. The followers, the ones on Twitter, are more interested in picking out the pieces they think are important, and honestly, talking more than listening. What is missing here? That percentage of the class who do not appear on this graphic. What percentage of the class is not represented, I am not sure, but it is likely a big number (40%, 80%+, anyone care to hazard a guess?)

Almost a year ago, I wrote a post  – Do Giraffes Make Noise – In the post I put forth some facts, which I think are worth repeating:

  • The average business does not receive complaints from 96% of its unhappy customers;
  • At least 9 out of 10 non-complainers will not do business with the company again – they are gone forever;
  • Of the 4% of unhappy customers that do complain, 7 out of 10 will do business again with the company so long as their concern in handled properly, and 19 out of 20 if the grievance is dealt with swiftly.

Another great meme, one that has crossed the Twitterverse and Blogosphere and back many times is that “you cannot manage it if you cannot measure it”. What exactly are we supposed to do if we cannot measure it? Is all lost? A lot of information – data which provides insight, is gathered by taking surveys, <shutter> NPS and other metrics. Are all of these data elements skewed? If the customers do not want to talk to us, then they do not want to talk to us. Is there evidence that suggests a breakdown of the people who do not answer surveys fit a particular demographic profile?  This is where doing things the right way, the way we used to do it remains critical to success.

Michael Maoz, from Gartner stated the following, just the other day:

Customers will tell us a lot. Let them ‘control’ the conversation, but do this by providing the guardrails, the train tracks, subtly. Your customers will like the transparency of you saying: “Hey all! We are supporting, aggressively, your conversations….Social CRM is different than Social Media or Social Networking in that it is highly intentional – focused on customer advocacy and excellence. Not conversations or engagement generally.

The great monitoring solutions available to us (like Attensity and Radian6) are additional elements which need to be used. Just as Social CRM is an additional element on top of CRM. Social Media monitoring is not a replacement for good practices. Whether they are customer care, customer service or customer support. Has the pendulum swung to far in your organization, to the point that you putting too much energy into looking at the Social elements? Do not get me wrong, I like where we are going, just want to make sure that we do not forget where we have been!

Social Hearing Versus Social Listening, There is a Difference

I am torn between two topics this weekend – one is the subject line above, the second is is the fun topic of “Creepful”; the awkward combination of being insightful and sharing so much information with the person you are speaking with that they believe it is actually creepy. I will come back to that one, and post it over at CRMOutsiders, as a follow-up to Martin’s great start to the conversation.

Are you Listening, or just Hearing?

I am hopeful that most of you who are reading this post realize that there is a difference between hearing and listening. It is possible that it is one of those topics that you do not think too much about, but now that I am bringing it up, it makes sense. According to the Oxford Dictionary, the definition of hearing is “the faculty of perceiving sounds” whereas listening is to “take notice of and act on what someone says.”  So, hearing is the physical part, but listening is a cognitive or conscious response to what has been heard. Said simplistically, for those of you with kids, we know they heard you, the question really is did they listen to what you said. In the age of the Social Web, I will suggest that hearing be extended beyond just sound to include what is ‘said’ via the written word, on both standard (mail, email, fax) and Social channels (Twitter, Facebook, Blogs).

The mirror image to the listening versus hearing discussion is the open versus transparent discussion. I made my feelings pretty clear on that topic, Transparency is a Characteristic, not a Goal. In this post, I suggest that transparency is the ability to witness with an unobstructed view. Suggesting further that these organizational characteristics will lead to an increased level of trust, or the ability for people unfamiliar with you, or your organization to build trust more quickly. To me, transparency is a little bit like hearing (but a little more sophisticated), it is important, it needs to happen, but in isolation, it will only take you so far. So, what is the listening equivalent? Being open. Open is transparency plus participation, which leads to trust and value creation.

How do these pieces fit together?

There are hundreds of Tweets and Blogs, presented by ‘experts’ where listening is ‘strongly recommended’ as the starting point. While I agree that listening is important, I fear that what is actually happening is not really listening at all. If you do not plan to take any actions based on what you hear, are you really listening? Does Social Media monitoring really start with listening? You could say that all I am doing is playing a game of semantics, and you might be right (but, I would disagree with you). In the world that Social Media, is there such a thing as ‘Social Hearing’? Yes, it is called Social Media Monitoring. That said, monitoring and hearing are pointless if you do not plan on doing anything about what you find. What is really needed is Social Media Listening. There, I said it – but I am not going to suggest another TLA. What I am going to suggest is that if you plan to monitor, then prove to people that you are listening, not just hearing.

There are two ways to prove that you are listening. One way is transparency, allowing people to see inside the organization where they can witness what you are doing. The second, more interesting way to prove that you are listening is to be open. As I have stated previously “Open suggests that I can not only see through the window, but I can walk through the front door and participate.” I am not suggesting either that this conversation is over, I am suggesting that you need to make sure that you are doing more than just hearing, and that in order to do that, you might need to be more than just transparent.  Happy Sunday – please do let me know if I have missed something big (or even little).

Transparency Is A Characteristic, Not A Goal

I have been witnessing some strange things lately, not sure if you have noticed it too. For one, it is nearly 95 degrees outside, and I live in northern Vermont. I am not used to the heat; however the heat wave might be having a impact, making people do strange things. The strangeness I am witnessing is that people are nitpicking on every single word used or being contrarian, just to be contrarian (some blog reference guide suggests this is a good way to get page views). People suggest that if a word is used too much it is a buzzword. If it is used way too much it is hype. If you really go overboard (by buzzing the hype),  you have jumped the shark; “a moment of downturn for a previously successful enterprise” (a Happy Days reference, so it has to be cool).

The subject line of this post is something I tweeted earlier today. Actually, the whole Tweet was “Reputation is a goal, building Trust is a goal; Transparency is not goal, it is a path to each”. This was in response to a typical contrarian post, someone picking on the word, but this one bothered me. For starters, transparency is not a goal, it is a characteristic of a person or if you have a strong leader, an organization. I believe it is a very important characteristic, one that often leads to building trust and then a supporting element of a positive reputation. I take issue with selectively being transparent, you are or you are not. That does not mean that for security, competitive or privacy reasons, certain information does not need to be held close. Stating that certain things cannot be shared is transparent, as long as everyone is treated equally and it is stated.

When doing just the slightest bit of research today, I came upon a good post, which quoted The 2010 Edelman Global Trust Barometer:

For the first time trust and transparency rank as important to corporate reputation as the quality of products and services.  In fact, in the U.S. and in much of Western Europe, those two attributes rank higher than product quality and far outrank financial returns.

In other words, I am not making this up, this is real and you should probably pay attention. I could pick on the wording a little, as I did with my Tweet, and suggest the modest differentiation between trust and transparency. Trust is something earned. There are many things which go into earning it, and it trust is one of (maybe the core) the components which make up reputation. Many believe that transparency, the ability to witness with an unobstructed view, what is going on, helps organizations to build trust – maybe even more quickly. If I can witness how an organization treat others, for example, I may be willing to take a risk and ‘trust them’ sooner than if knew very little about them. Just for completeness, ‘open’ is not the same as transparency, open is one level deeper. Open suggests that I can not only see through the window, but I can walk through the front door and participate.

What led me to this post this week, in addition to what I mentioned above? The FastCompany influencer project, which I talked about in a previous post here. In addition to everything I talked about above. Is it possible to be influenced (positively) by someone who I do not trust? Is trust a binary thing – I do or I do not? For example, I can trust that you want to do the right thing, but that does not mean I trust you to do the right thing (just try getting in a car with a new driver). The topic of influence and trust are aligned, this is an area I hope to explore further, but it is not simple. I do know that Trust can be fragile, and gaining it takes work, but it can be gone in an instant.

What if we Focused on Managing Expectations?

A couple months ago, I realized that it was time to renew my passport. I downloaded the forms, filled them all out, dropped by town hall, where I had my official exact size and specification photo taken, verified the details and then mailed the passport application. The application stated something like: “Please allow 6 weeks for receipt of the your passport”. 4 weeks later, there it was, in my  mailbox. I was able to check the status online, but never actually did it.  Ok, it was just a passport, and the government is the only game in town, but my expectations were met. I did not worry, there was no angst and the event passed without much fanfare

Whether it is a purchase at the local grocery store, a software purchase online, a car, or a phone and the associated service plan, we all have expectations. Trust, boiled down, is ultimately the expectations set between two entities, usually people. It could be between a person and a brand, but that sounds a bit like marketing speak. It is what it is. When a brand make a promise, it is setting my expectations, as a customer. Business to business is no different, actually, more often than not, a business includes a person in-between the brand and the customer. This is not always the case, but often it is, when you make a business purchase, there is almost always a person involved, this person is acting a proxy to the brand. As business purchases are typically more complex, that extra level of comfort of looking someone in the eye makes the difference.

In the age of the social web, this is no different than it was before. The question then, is what should a business, or the people within the business be managing? Customer Relationship Management (CRM) suggests that I am actually managing a relationship with customers, which in some ways sounds kind of silly. Most CRM systems simply manage data, and leave the relationship part to the human looking at the data. So, some have suggested that within this new normal, it might be more appropriate not focus on managing relationships, we should focus on managing the social aspects of the relationship, or SRM. This might bring things closer,  in other words, if we focus on the human aspects then we may have more success. We can help business people by providing the right information, at the right time. This fostering a way to focus on the important aspects of the relationship with people (more than just customers even).

The only thing that needs to be Managed are Expectations

As I have said in previous posts, relationships are built on trust, not data. And, as I said above, a large component of building trust depends upon meeting expectations. Therefore, my conclusion, therefore is that to element which needs actual management, are the expectations. Everyone needs to know, and fully understand what each and every customer, supplier, partner and any other member within the ecosystem expects. I am not suggesting that customer data and all the other components of CRM are not needed. I am saying that at the only thing that really needs to be managed are expectations. Everyone needs to understand the brand messaging, as this is setting the expectation of the future buyer, for example.

To me, this is what the word ‘Social’ adds to CRM, it is not only social technology, it is about adding the human element to the impersonal nature of most CRM applications. Since social CRM changes the focus from your rules, as a company, to the needs of your customers, the next step beyond understanding the needs is meeting the needs. Social CRM is about the Social Customer as well, and the new level of expectations. Once a person or organization attempts to meet the needs, more often than not communications, interactions and conversations will occur where some level of expectation will be set. Are you confident that everyone on your team is aware of these expectations? A consumer yourself, maybe a parent, what are the results of expectations missed? How about overachieving, or exceeding expectations?

By the way, I can not think of a better reason for collaborative technologies internally, maybe even as part the CRM application, or Social CRM application itself, where Gartner thinks collaboration is central to Social CRM.

Can the Value of Social CRM be realized in the absence of a Collaborative Organization?

In short, no, it cannot – that simple. Disagree?

The essence of Social CRM is about inviting your customers into your organization, like you invite an old friend in for dinner. But, in order to invite them in, you must be prepared. The preparation will require change, both cultural and technological. From a technological perspective, tools (yes, tools) that support social networks are going to be key. The support, or the backbone, will need to enable, and even foster collaboration between and within companies and increasingly, with customers. This doesn’t mean a technology-first approach. But it does mean selecting the right technologies (and only the right ones) to enable a natural collaborative ecosystem. “Natural” is a fun concept, here, it means, hang out with your customers where they are, not where you want them to be. If they invite you to dinner, that will work as well, just mind your manners.

It is about the best use of technology, leveraging what is present, or expanding what you have as needed. It is not about the platform, but about the people who are the platform.  If tools and technology can be used to leverage the knowledge within and across your organization, then make sure people understand the tools. If you are a small agile organization and this is not about technology, but experience, then make sure your team gain experience at every possible opportunity.  If your teams are able to adapt and communicate efficiently, then  meeting the needs of the customer will be that much easier; then, and only then can SocialCRM can be realized. Wait, is the objective to realize Social CRM or the value, independent of the name? And does technology need to be involved at all? No, asking the the right questions, at the right time, in a caring and sincere tone is Social (we have been living with that for the past 1000 years).

Friend and sparring partner Esteban Kolsky wrote a post “What comes after Social Business” recently where he shares a concern with trying to match internal transactional data with collaboration data. (no he is not really a sparing partner, I actually learn a lot from Esteban)

“The idea behind social business of bringing internal collaboration together with external interactions has one major flaw – it attempts to integrate an action (collaboration) with information (data) as if they were equal.”

I think Esteban gives more credit to businesses than is deserved, no one is there yet – thus we are not ready to figure out what comes next.  We need to think about what the customer wants to do, and enable it. You know the royal “We” this is going to take some work to figure out. These are important aspects of your business, no one, nor a tool can direct you to nirvana. It might take some long hours, and lots of thinking (and data analysis) to get there – think about your customers, put yourself in their shoes. Even better ask other parts of the organization to do it, it is worth the time!

If a customer wants to collaborate, cool, let’s work together. If we are focusing on transactions and information, then that is good too, just another type of good. If I am a small company, with a unique clientele, then there is the possibility that we can achieve both at the same time. In other words, let’s do business together and work towards increasing the value of the business for each of us. I cannot do it alone though, other members of you team, organization or enterprise need to be involved.

In short, I stick by my first statement, if you cannot help, allow or enable your organization  – large or small – to be collaborative, work together, then the value of trying to be Social within the context of CRM will be lost. How are you going to get this done?

What is Twitter for Anyway?

The dynamic of Twitter has changed, it is different, and I am struggling to put my finger on exactly what that change is about. It is possible that I am different, or that my needs and wants from Twitter are different. But, Twitter must be more to people than just a place to whine, or vent, unfortunately, that seems that is what makes the news. Twitter is an acquired taste. You cannot tell someone to like it, they just have to figure it out for themselves, find their own best use. This does need to be an active decision. Twitter is the bridge between Social Media and Social Networking and the recent change, the new dynamic, seems to have made that chasm wider, and that bridge harder to cross.

Twitter was my introduction to Social Media. I joined and starting using it about the same time as Facebook and the time I started blogging. Yes, I watched and maybe created a few YouTube videos, participated in instant messaging, but this was the real start. On Twitter, I started slow, asked me wife to look at my Tweets, just to be sure someone was watching, isn’t that how everyone starts? I was not an early adopter, by any stretch, but I think I was an early adopter from a collaboration perspective, eh, maybe.

Is Twitter for Sales, Support or Marketing?

Yes.

There is no really good answer here, ask 4 people and you will get 5 opinions. There is certainly value for sales people to leverage Twitter. Specifically, it can be a valuable intelligence tool even research tool. But, it could also be a monumental waste of time. A sales person will not close a deal on Twitter, not in the B to B space anyway. It must be part of a broader strategy, and caution is advised. I believe sales people need as much, or more guidance than others to use it effectively.

Talk to Frank Ellison (@comcastcares) and Twitter is good for customer support. Or at least for customer complaints, there is a subtle difference. Is Twitter really good for Customer Support, or do companies simply tolerate it? There was a good discussion on the Social Pioneers Google Group, feel free to peruse the discussion there. If your customers are not likely to be on Twitter or using Twitter for support type issues, no reason to encourage them to move here. Martin Schneider wrote an interesting post about whiners on Twitter, Jacob Morgan talked about the issue as well. but, at a higher level, Social CRM not just Twitter. Support needs to solve this problem, of the whiners, and not reward them. But, if you really want to solve problems, you need to take the conversation somewhere else.

Marketing, of course, loves Twitter. It is a way to broadcast messages, first and foremost. The ones that are doing it right, are using it as part of a multi-channel strategy, to engage with the ecosystem and participate in conversations – listening more and talking less. If they are talking, then the hope is that they are talking about something else other than themselves. People are doing this, brands not so much. I am not going to go deep on the marketing use, hundreds of articles have been written and read. Twitter is a place where Marketing can begin the conversation, but is not the place where a relationship can be built.

Twitter is for Collaboration, and it is where things begin

I asked my Tweeps (Friends on Twitter) what they thought, and the answers support my thesis (statistical sample is small and skewed, but work with me). Collaboration is my favorite use for Twitter, it is very powerful. I have met fascinating people, and have continued collaborative relationships which extended much beyond Twitter. Brent Leary had a great way to put it. “@mjayliebs I like 2.0 and what it allows us to do, but 1.0 is still where relationships began w/ 2.0 become 3D – richer, more meaningful…”

  • Allen Bonde, a management consultant and marketer said: “Twitter is great for alerts, listening and offers for followers. It’s a good discussion starter – but a poor discussion finisher”,
  • Jason Falls, a thinker, blogger and consultant in the media relations domain said “Twitter is for Conversations”,
  • Esteban Kolsky, an analyst and consultant, said:”twitter was the blueprint to evolve collaboration platforms… can it continue to be relevant now? time will tell – gut says meh”,
  • Venessa Miemis, a futurist, philosopher, thought architect, metacog said:”Connecting, sharing resources, network weaving, learning, expanding consciousness, growing, discovery”,
  • Heather Margolis, a Channel Management and Marketing Maven using social media in a B2B world said: “Connecting with those in your industry/eco-system but maybe not in your direct circle of contacts”,
  • Brian Vellmure, a Customer focused strategist said ” 1) People Sampler 2) Learning Tool 3) Relationship/Conversation On ramp 4) Info distribution channel”,
  • Ann Hadley head content, editor Marketing Profs,  said “Twitter is for connecting. Also, whiter teeth.”
  • Mark Frazier – President, Openworld – said “a) scans of torrential innovation, w/links to dive in b) sense of ‘whole person’ via their tweet traces c) map of influence nets”,
  • Mike Boysen, a CRM purist, said “Twitter is a novelty. I found new friends. We quickly moved to another medium. Nothing left to say”,
  • Mark Tamis – with a Enterprise 2.0 and BPM background a said “finding and exchanging information and insights relevant to my interests and further the thinking around them”,

I might be hanging with the wrong crowd, or the right crowd, my preference of course. But no one said “whining”, why is that? Is it because the people who responded actually listen, as well as talk?  Of course Esteban Kolsky wrote a great post just yesterday, helping me to formulate my own thoughts:

“Twitter is a microcosm.  Twitter is a world in itself, and it has dramatic representations of what happens in the real world as well.” He then goes on to say “Twitter is a representation of the real world, no more and no less, and it requires the same commitment to get value out of it as you do from the real world.”

This is crucial to those of  you out there that just love to yell and scream when something happens. Just ask yourself, if you were at a cocktail party, or at a neighborhood BBQ, would you broadcast as loudly? Has it changed for you? Are your teeth whiter? Just asking….